The Macomb Daily
Cubans respond with zeal to new U.S. migration policy
In barely a week, 25-year-old engineer Marcos Marzo went from riding his small electric motorcycle past the low buildings of Havana’s Vedado district to traveling the megahighways of Florida, amazed by the towering high-rises and giant supermarkets.
A close relative told Marzo on Jan. 21 that he had applied online to sponsor the young engineer’s trip to Florida as required by the new parole program for Cuban migrants set up by the Biden administration. The next day the sponsorship had been confirmed and the day after that it was approved.
With his printed authorization in hand and a small blue suitcase, Marzo climbed aboard a plane to Hialeah last Friday, shaken by the speed of it all.
“It has been a very hard, that in seven days your life changes so drastically, it fills you with hope, but at the same time it fills you with dread,” Marzo told The Associated Press before leaving for what he knew would be a personal watershed.
Overwhelmed by thousands of Cubans crowding its southern border after making the dangerous trip through Central America and an increase in makeshift boats crossing the Florida Straits, the United States in early January approved a policy change that makes migrants request a permit, or parole, online before arriving with the sponsorship of a relative or acquaintance in the U.S.
Cubans, who qualify for the program along with Nicaraguans, Haitians and Venezuelans, have responded with zeal, launching a search for sponsors and long lines to obtain documents. The program’s backers hope it will help would-be migrants avoid the risks of the route through Mexico and bring order to the migrant flow.
“This option has come like a light,” said Marzo, who had been living with his parents in Havana. Now in the U.S., his dream is to do a master’s degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and work as an engineer, which he says is his passion.
According to figures from U.S. border authorities, in the 20212022 fiscal year — which began in October last year and ended in September — officials had a record 224,000 encounters with Cuban migrants on the Mexico border. In October 2022, there were 29,878 Cuban migrants stopped, in November, 35,881 and in December 44,064.
Meanwhile, the Coast Guard intercepted 6,182 Cubans trying to arrive by sea in fiscal year 2021-2022. Add to that 4,795 in the past three months.
All the figures are records and come amid a serious economic crises on the island caused by the coronavirus pandemic, inefficiencies in economic reforms and a radical tightening of U.S. sanctions, which seek to pressure its government to change its model. Blackouts, shortages, inflation, long fuel lines and dollarization marked parts of 2021 and 2022 in Cuba, while the country saw its first street demonstrations in decades with thousands of people demanding an end of the power outages.
Until Jan. 5, Cubans who arrived at the northern border of Mexico obtained permits that granted them entry into U.S. territory, assuming there was a credible fear that prevented them from returning to the island. Later, they usually ended up with refugee benefits and a year after that the protection of the Cuban Adjustment Act.
Then the Biden administration unveiled its new policy: 30,000 migrants will be accepted each month from Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Haiti. The migrants can stay for up to two years but must have a sponsor already in place in the United States. Those who risk reaching the borders without permission would be deported and not be able to enter U.S. territory for five years.